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Jealous Children


by Margaret Broersma

Author of Daily Reflections for Stepparents

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures (Proverbs 24:3-4).

So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (I Corinthians 12:25-26).

When Mike and Patty started to date, they were both excited about finding someone who knew how it felt to be deserted by a spouse. They thought they might possibly have found not only a spouse, but a stable, sensitive co-parent. Freely admitting the mistakes of the past, faithfully committed to God, and with the help of accountability groups for support and change, they thought they could make a "go" of it. But the kids weren’t so easily convinced.

Sometimes as they would sit on the front porch talking after the children were in bed, Patty’s nine-year-old daughter, Emily, would sit in the upstairs window overlooking the porch and scream. The idea that the one parent she had left might possibly be giving her affections to someone else terrified this child and also made her angry. How could Mom choose someone over her? If Mom loved Mike, then who would love Emily?

How could Emily possibly share her mother’s time and affection with a man, let alone with Mike’s children as well? Thankfully, Emily got over feeling threatened when Mike spent some special time with her and became her friend too. She was no longer afraid of being deserted. In fact, she actually became glad that she was getting a step-dad.

We had a similar situation. One of the children would pretend to be in pain, "fake" cry, and carry-on something awful when we walked around outside or just the two of us sat talking. First of all we simply had to say, "Stop! You may not carry on like that!" But we also had to reassure her that her dad would always love her, and in fact, I would love and care for her too.

The behavior stopped of it's own accord when the need for the behavior stopped. As the child gained in security and saw that she wasn’t losing a father but was gaining a stepmother, she was able to be more reasonable. She learned from our being together as a family that although she was not the center of the universe and would not be singled out for extra attention, EACH of our children would be treated as special at certain times. And so would she.

She would be expected to give as much to family relationships as the other children, and she would receive as much attention as the other kids. If we had given her more time and attention, we would have fed into her selfishness and attempts to manipulate. But treating her fairly, as another one of all special children in the family, she gained in security.

One of the ways I made each child feel special in the first year or so of our marriage was to have a "kid of honor day." On this day, the honored child would pick the supper menu (from choices offered by me), have a special place-setting at the table, maybe even have a small gift, and we would sing "For He/She’s a Jolly Good Fellow." This honor could be for the end of a ball season, doing great on a school project, learning to tie shoelaces, getting the coveted part in the play, the first baby-sitting job well done, etc.

Any little accomplishment at all can be an excuse to honor a kid. (Pay attention to not honoring the same one twice before honoring them each at least once!) After a time, this tradition died out. We have plenty of birthdays to celebrate, and on that day we all honor the individual. But when the children were younger and birthdays seemed very far apart for them, the "kid of honor" meals were very helpful in making each of our children feel loved, secure, and special.

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for wisdom in raising these children and blending our family. Thank You that each one is special, and may all of our children know that they are special both to You and to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Taken from Daily Reflections for Stepparents.  Used by permission.  Margaret Broersma and her husband, Roger, blended a family that includes Margaret's two sons and Roger's three daughters.  She is adjunt professor of English at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Purchase her book Daily Reflections for Stepparents.



Comments ( 6 )
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#6: by jessica on 10.15.2015 @ 12:00am CDT

I have a problem too I was of 6 when my father died n me ND my mother go through very hard time so she decided to get married again n when she got married she stopes taking care of mine like I have to sleep separate I said ok now when I was sleeping I suddenly got up at night I was felling I am about to vomit I feel sick I knocked at their door my mum came out I told her that I m not feeling well she is like I m tired yesterday I can't sleep cause of u now i have have to sleep and I said ok u can go and she went and whole night she didn't came once to.see me if I m ok or not whole night they do sex still aren't tired they sleep whole day nd night nd I keep watching tv nd using mobile
they r still sleeping goshh I m tired
#5: by Ron Deal on 11.13.2014 @ 07:58am CST


Your situation is extremely frustrating. So sorry your husband's boundaries are so loose your stepson rules his heart. It really doesn't have to be just one of you or the other; but your husband has to be the one who figures out how to lead his son in this regard.

Chapter 5 of The Smart Stepfamily speaks directly to this situation. Perhaps you could read it together? Not with venom of "I told you so" in your heart, mind you; that would sabotage any healthy conversation toward change. There's much at stake for your husband and you'll have to be compassionate about that if he's going to find the courage to put you in the "front seat." May God bless.
#4: by Karen on 11.11.2014 @ 09:37pm CST

I have been married for 10 years to my second husband. He has one child and I have 3. All of them are over 21 now, but my husband's son is acting like the little girl in this jealous children article. He controls and manipulates his Dad and unfortunately my husband is taken by it and so now and in the past, my husband has chosen to move away from me and live with his son. When they come for holidays my husband leaves the holiday with his son and they go back to where they live. His son loves it and it is easy to see it. His son is 23 years old. My husband wants me to move where he is but I will not live next to his son who manipulates his Dad and treats me badly. My husband says I am the adult so I need to cater to the "child" and be the bigger person. But in the mean time I am married to a man who I don't live with and his son has always been trying to come between me and my husband and has succeeded. I cannot handle them leaving together after holidays so I just want to not get together for the holidays, anymore. Can anyone relate?
#3: by evelia long on 12.20.2010 @ 12:24am CST

Dear Margaret Broersma,My situation is quite difficult. I have lived with my boyfriend for 6 yrs.at one time we were planning on getting married but we did not want to upset his only daughter about us because she was getting married herself. we wanted to wait to tell her,after the wedding i told her mother about my engagement ring after that;our relationship went bad little by little. the ex-wife called my boyfriend regularly and the story it's about our daughter why he have to talk.well i understand to a certain extend. for me saying something about it,he turns around tells the daughter that i'm extremely jealous of her mother now the daughter is very defensive and does not want me and him together. she put it simple if you stay with her i will never speak to you again,you are to loose your only daughter. he does not want to loose his daughter and i know for a fact he loves me but he is in between her and me. he decided to end our relationship a week before christmas and we had planned a hunting trip after that spend new years with my son and my mom in texas and after that my birthday to hawaii. she knew all this so she got on his case about being with me so all our plans are gone.he promised her he would never go back to me.i'm heartbroken and miss him so much. he said he has to do whatever it takes to make his daughter happy even if it means he stays byhimself.i know this is not what he wants but the daughter has so much power over him.now he says he will never marry.if i had i wish it would be for me and him to reconcile to live a happy life. i don't know how to deal with this i have never done anything to the daughter, i feel she is so jealous of her dad.please respond.
#2: by Dorothy Clinch on 09.26.2010 @ 12:49am CDT

Inform both daughters there is going to be one on one time twice a month b'cuz "YOU WANT" to have "special" time with each of them. Then, flip a coin - Heads will get the first one on one time, tails gets the next. Heads MUST do what you choose to do (choose wisely) and tails gets the intrim... to think about how they want to spend your one on one time. Make it appear beneficial to them both in your own way. Tails will get that extra special "something" since heads gets to go first...win win :)
#1: by Michelle on 07.29.2008 @ 11:11am CDT

Dear Margaret Broersma,

I as well am in a step-family situation. I have two children of my own and my spouse has two of his own. I feel as though when his daughter, who is 7, sees us together she immediately calls out for her dad. If my spouse and I are talking she interrups the conversation.

She plainly tries to get attention any way she can. She accidently brushes up against the wall, fakes a fall and cries hail mary!

I know she feels like she may be losing her dad. How can I assure her that I am not trying to take her place.

She is very cold with me too. What can i do to get close to her.

She isn't very nice to my children or her little brother, who is 5, either, constantly picks on them, or wants what they have. I feel angry with the child because I am afraid of saying something that would upset my spouse.

I kow that spending alone time with her would probably work but its close to impossible with four kids. If I do that then my daughter who is 9, gets jelous! There is no winning here!

Do you have some advice for me?


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